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Sgt_Markoff

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

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There needs to be a discussion thread for this, arguably the most superior courtroom drama ever produced.

If I'm familiar with any film scene-by-scene, word-for-word, character-by-character, and shot-for-shot its probably this one (alongside 'Touch of Evil').

I've read the screenplay, and purchased the music; I've owned the novel and I've reviewed the spoken dialog in the film likely hundreds of times.

Just a casual fan, mind now. The foremost reason I became so interested in the flick was the jazz score. A standard item in my listening habits.

Your thoughts on this movie, please.

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12 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Your thoughts on this movie, please.

Congratulations for starting a thread and a normal one about a film as well.

I have seen the film all the way through maybe once and have caught pieces of it a few other times. James Stewart gives an excellent performance, I believe one of his best. He was nominated for an Oscar and won the NY Film Critics Award. Lee Remick is also great as the rape victim wife of soldier Ben Gazzara. I feel the film is a bit long and the ending seems kind of abrupt. But the courtroom scenes are riveting.

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The only problem I've ever had with this otherwise riveting film here Sarge, was Preminger's use of the non-professional actor Joseph Welch as the courtroom judge.

His line-readings throughout the film sound much too measured and stilted, and as if he's reading them off some large cue card just off-camera for the very first time.

(...and yes, I know lawyer Welch was famous for his dressing-down of a certain senator during the infamous Army-McCarthy hearings while acting as defense counsel)

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Awww. I thought the non-pro was one of the best aspects of the flick. The presence of a real judge was fascinating to me. Maybe my strictures for 'weak line reading' aren't as stringent as yours, ole sport...but I really didn't notice any failing in his delivery. In fact, in  many instances he looked to me as if he was going to steal the scene from the pros he was surrounded by!

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8 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Awww. I thought the non-pro was one of the best aspects of the flick. The presence of a real judge was fascinating to me. Maybe my strictures for 'weak line reading' aren't as stringent as yours, ole sport...but I really didn't notice any failing in his delivery. In fact, in  many instances he looked to me as if he was going to steal the scene from the pros he was surrounded by!

Yea,  it appears many others agreed with you at the time of the film's release: He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture and a BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer for the role.

While I don't feel his performance was worthy of an nominations or awards,  I never noticed (and didn't know until now) he wasn't a professional actor.  

 

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16 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

There needs to be a discussion thread for this, arguably the most superior courtroom drama ever produced.

If I'm familiar with any film scene-by-scene, word-for-word, character-by-character, and shot-for-shot its probably this one (alongside 'Touch of Evil').

I've read the screenplay, and purchased the music; I've owned the novel and I've reviewed the spoken dialog in the film likely hundreds of times.

Just a casual fan, mind now. The foremost reason I became so interested in the flick was the jazz score. A standard item in my listening habits.

Your thoughts on this movie, please.

Lana Turner was originally cast as rape victim Laura Manion and had, in fact, filmed several scenes before she and Otto Preminger had a falling-out over how she should play the role.  She asked to be excused opening the door for Lee Remick.

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The film is said to be so accurate in terms of legal procedure, that it was used for years in law schools to aid study.

To me, that puts it in the same league as a few of my other favorite 'films of professional practice'. The 'counting-the-money' scene in Pelham123. The dark room sequence in 'Blow Up'. The heist sequence in 'Thief' and 'Rififi'.

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Impossible to turn this film off, if it is showing. So I guess it's one of my favorites.

Some weird things that make it unique (like Preminger himself!)

> the various male-bonded pairs that sort of drive the plot--- Jimmy Stewart and his old lawyer buddy, and the murder victim and his fellow bartender.

> The grungy small-town locations ( which i adore! )

> How hideously UGLY George C. Scott is - he is quite a monster. Since in later life he was infamous for beating Ava Gardner IRL, this sort of fits.

> Orson Bean and the little pet dog--to keep things from getting too ugly, these cute characters fit right in..

 

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George C. Scott was ugly in this film? Looked might dashing to my eyes.

Yeah those small towne locales. I've been in many suchlike. This one is particularly unusual in that many of the residents are of Swedish or Norwegian descent. Some of the character's names reflect it: Toybull the bartender (not the one where the shooting transpired) and also the bailiff.

Another fun character actor to take note of: Ken Lynch as 'Sgt Durgo' (another Swede moniker). Lynch is famous for his dry-as-gravel voice; and made good use of it in radio.

'Thunder Bay Inn' is actually still standing. And it doesnt hurt that the novel and movie were based on a real-life case from 1952!

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Eve Arden's real life husband played the opposition in the case--the rather churlish-seeming district attorney!

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14 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Eve Arden's real life husband played the opposition in the case--the rather churlish-seeming district attorney!

Brooks West as Mitch Lodwick.

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The key witness in the film--played by Kathryn Grant--she would go one to become Mrs. Bing Crosby

Jimmy Stewart's character--when he is introduced to her--his growing attraction to her, I thought this was nimbly done. He starts out as her enemy (her testimony could go either way) and she hates him for maligning her father...by the end of the film you know he (a confirmed bachelor) is setting his sights on her. Happens very gradually though. Wunnerful to see this slow transformation.

He puts his argumentative skill to work on her. "Miss Palante" he says. "Everybody loves someone, or something. Me, I love fishing...and an old guy by the name of Parnell..."

Wendell Mayes, screenwriter (not a famous name, I admit) was often this fine and delicate in his handling of such scenes. He did 'Advise and Consent' for Preminger later. And numerous other classics. Wendell Mayes!

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who Kathryn Grant will marry---

IRL, of course, she hooked up with Bing Crosby (exactly 30 years older than her).

It took her FIVE YEARS to decide to marry him, after he proposed.

-------------------------------------------------------

But the guy who is in love with Kathryn Grant's character in ANATOMY OF A MURDER is the other bartender, the wonderful Murray Hamilton, and James Stewart comments in the movie that this is so.

James Stewart is BROKE, remember? He will remain a bachelor....

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26 minutes ago, papyrusbeetle said:

who Kathryn Grant will marry---

IRL, of course, she hooked up with Bing Crosby (exactly 30 years older than her).

It took her FIVE YEARS to decide to marry him, after he proposed.

-------------------------------------------------------

But the guy who is in love with Kathryn Grant's character in ANATOMY OF A MURDER is the other bartender, the wonderful Murray Hamilton, and James Stewart comments in the movie that this is so.

James Stewart is BROKE, remember? He will remain a bachelor....

That is correct;  doesn't everyone know that Mary Pilant because Mrs. Robinson.

 

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On 2/12/2019 at 3:07 PM, filmnoirguy said:

Lana Turner was originally cast as rape victim Laura Manion and had, in fact, filmed several scenes before she and Otto Preminger had a falling-out over how she should play the role.  She asked to be excused opening the door for Lee Remick.

I think it had to do with her wardrobe........

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32 minutes ago, Hibi said:

I think it had to do with her wardrobe........

Yes,  it was the wardrobe;   Turner didn't wish for her undergarments to be discussed!

(and nobody better snicker or the Judge will find you in contempt).

 

 

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I have to wonder if Turner would have been even half as good in that role as Remick was.

(...somethin's tellin' me, no)

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wow, I think Lana Turner would have been super in this movie.

But, it would have been a different movie altogether (more "Hollywood")

Lee Remick's youth adds so much drama--especially up against creepy/ugly George C. Scott in the courtroom.

But the REAL-LIFE rape victim (in photos) is a more mature looking woman, much more like Lana Turner---older, but quite sexy.

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It certainly was Lee Remick's big break. She was a relative nobody at the time, and it was kind of happenstance that she would up with it. Talk about a win.

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Lana was a bit too old for the role (pushing 40), though she did have experience testifying in court that would've helped her performance! She had that old MGM glamour aura too that was wrong for the part. I think the film worked out better with Remick.......

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I saw an interview with Richard Dreyfus once, where he either cited it as his favorite film of all time or close to it. He was working on a crime flick at the time, maybe that's how the title was brought up and while Dreyfus was chatting to the interviewer (you rarely see this anymore) the program showed some clips of the flick.

Anyway what Dreyfus says stood out to him is how tight everything is, in this movie. Plot, pacing, editing. Everything snappy, crisp, and economical. All the principal characters are made to 'pop' out with clarity and definition; yet none of them are overly-dwelled on; no doldrums are created. Every scene forwards the story along, or delineates a character's narrative function.

For the size and scope of the story (the amount of information conveyed to the viewer) the whole thing is incredibly lean and efficient. Viewer engagement with the flow of the story is maintained throughout. It stands up to repeated viewings due to the good acting carried out by confident performers, and Preminger's fearless use of close-ups.

 

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On 2/13/2019 at 4:54 PM, Dargo said:

I have to wonder if Turner would have been even half as good in that role as Remick was.

(...somethin's tellin' me, no)

This was a surprise, seeing it's from such a LANA fan!  :o

Anyway.....

Being too, a MICHIGANDER, it's one aspect that helped make the movie MORE enjoyable than I would have found it anyway.  ;)

Sepiatone

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in fact--going back to this matter of this inexperienced day-player 'roped in' to serve as the judge in this movie's court case--there's one scene which is perhaps the most crucial scene in the movie; and (this is really something!) he is at the center of it. Preminger shows him in a solitary close-up, mulling over the legal nicety upon which the whole trial revolves...and its a long c.u. too; as the 'judge' takes out his pocketwatch and thoughtfully rewinds it before issuing his ruling. This is the scene when the bench must decide whether to allow Jimmy Stewart's plea (to open up details of the alleged assault). I can't readily name any other such movie which has as vitally-important a sequence as this, and the director chooses to give it over completely to an utterly amateur actor. Can you?

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3 hours ago, Sepiatone said:

This was a surprise, seeing it's from such a LANA fan!  :o

Anyway.....

Being too, a MICHIGANDER, it's one aspect that helped make the movie MORE enjoyable than I would have found it anyway.  ;)

Sepiatone

You must have me confused with someone else around here, Sepia. I don't recall ever previously saying that I was a big fan of Lana's. I've never considered her acting skills to be all that such-a-much, and although in the right role she could be pretty effective. Just don't think this role would have been one of them.

Hibi's above comments: "Lana was a bit too old for the role (pushing 40), though she did have experience testifying in court that would've helped her performance! She had that old MGM glamour aura too that was wrong for the part. I think the film worked out better with Remick", would be some of the reasons I feel this way.

Remick's ability to effectively portray the character's "earthiness" for want of a better word, would be something I just don't feel Lana could have pulled off quite as well.

(...and also remember by the time this movie was made, Lana just two years prior was already starting to play the more matronly roles in films, and such as her role in 1957's Peyton Place)

 

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